Making Memories and Leaving a Trace…
This month, JVH asked me to write a column with the prompt “Merry Christmas,” so I thought I would share a Christmas tradition that started when my children were very little (they are 21 and 17 now), but that continues today. It’s a tradition that enables me to recap the year, tell my kids in a fun way how proud Jill and I are of them, and leave behind something for our family to enjoy in the future, perhaps even spawning a tradition for them to follow with their children.
Who knows, maybe I’ll have a chance to make a cameo in their children’s Christmas futures, but I’m getting a little ahead of myself! If you stay with me to the end, I’ll tie in how my cherished family Christmas memories relate to the importance of delivering authentic concern in a parking environment. But first, a little Holiday cheer!
The truth is, I’m not much for traditions, and frankly, sometimes I regret that. I regret that my kids won’t have a long list of “things that mom and dad did” to fall back on, as a source of comfort, when I’m gone. That’s OK. Really. I’m more of a “what’s in front of me” and “don’t look back” kind of a guy, except when it comes to Christmas Eve at our house.
You see, Christmas Eve is a time for me to sit down with a blank sheet of white paper, my favorite Mont Blanc pen (Frankie D gave it to me), and a bottle of red wine that Jill and I share while “making Christmas happen.”
Her labor of love is to wrap the presents and ensure absolute parity between our two children, Emerson and Sumner. My job is to pour out my heart in a one-page letter of love to the kids. This letter started as a note from Santa many years ago, when Saint Nick prowled our house on Christmas Eve, while his faithful reindeer waited patiently on the front yard…or was it the roof?
I had so much fun writing those letters from Santa, and my kids enjoyed reading them so much, that the tradition continues today as they both transition to adulthood. Happily, all that’s changed is the “voice” from Santa to dad.
When pondering the topic for my “Merry Christmas” column, I immediately thought about those letters. Reflecting on all the memories comprised within them and the shear joy it brings me to deliver them each year. Those letters have taught me several lessons that I hope you’ll find inspirational as I share them and some of the stories contained within.
Lesson #1: Leave evidence that you’ve been here. As I get older, I’m beginning to think about leaving a mark. It would seem like a “waste” if I came and went without a trace. I think we all want to leave our mark. When I think about “leaving evidence” and the notes, one of them stands out way above the crowd.
My son, at age 9, was skeptical that Santa really existed, so I did what any “real imaginary person” would do. I took a selfie. Well, not exactly a selfie…more like the shadow of a selfie. I took a picture of a shadow of a Santa hat and left it with the half-eaten carrots, cookie crumbs and milk residue.
I explained (in my note) that Rudolph had a little trouble handling the digital camera (dating myself) with his hooves and that he snapped the picture before I, Santa, could get in the frame. Little 9-year-old Sumner was thrilled with the picture and I had successfully held off the question “is there really a Santa Claus?” for one more year. We still laugh about that photo, and while it garners an eye-roll from my “enlightened” son today, it’s a treasured memory of a Christmas past!
Lesson #2: Highlight and celebrate the big moments. People in the office know that I am not a great celebration guy. In fact, I have explicitly asked others who are much better at that to help me celebrate when things go well. Of course, as you’ve already seen, that is not the case with me and Christmas.
This letter is a chance for me to trumpet my children’s, or our family’s, triumphs during the past year. I took the chance to remember big 4th grade football moments, 8th grade girls’ basketball moments, academic accomplishments and major milestones like earning driver’s licenses. The letter is one more chance to remind us of and celebrate our successes from the past year, one more time.
Lesson #3: At least once a year, you’ve got to write it down. This last lesson was inspired by a colleague of mine who took the opportunity each Christmas to write each of his four children a letter. That sounded a bit ambitious, so I opted for the family letter instead. As I said earlier, I’m more of a “damn the torpedoes” guy than “stop and smell the roses” guy.
But this letter has given me the opportunity to capture and commit to writing all the memories, accomplishments and growth from the previous year. That way, 10 years from now, in addition to caption-less pictures, we’ll have a written historical record of seminal moments in the Wolff household year-by-year.
If you’ve stayed with me this far, I’m sure you’re scratching your head about how all of this relates to parking. Here you go! As parents, we’ve all been admonished by our elders to “make memories,” and as we transition to 2020, the year of the “parking experience,” I would argue that it’s time for you all to begin thinking very seriously about ways to “make memories” for your customers.
I read the other day that next year, Generation Z will make up 40 percent of the world’s population. Why is that important? It’s important because Generation Z places a much higher premium on companies that help them make memories and create positive customer experiences. They care much less about possessing things and much more about “doing” something special.
Because this generation is so tuned into experiences, they are much more likely to pay attention to how you treat them and how you make them feel, which will very likely translate to repeat business vs. “one and done.” We all must care more about making (positive) memories, because the largest generation of consumers now expects it. Ignore this fact at your peril, dear Mr. Scrooge.